Pumpkins and messy fun combine for this fantastic fall activity. A pumpkin oobleck activity combines tactile learning of a sensory bin with an up-close investigation of pumpkins. It’s a perfect mix of sensory fun, imaginary play, and seasonal-themed goodness.
What is pumpkin oobleck?
First, let’s start with understanding what is oobleck?
Oobleck is a non-Newtonian substance made from combining cornstarch and water. What this creates is “not quite a solid, but not quite a liquid,” and completely awesome.
“Pumpkin oobleck” means is what I’m calling this sensory bin. It’s a fall sensory experience where my child is playing with a combination of oobleck and pumpkins… and it was fall activity perfection.
RELATED: Looking for more fun Fall activities? Check out my 50+ Fall Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers.
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- Cornstarch (also called cornflour)
- Sensory bin: I used a 28 qt bin from Target
- Optional: orange food coloring
How to make orange oobleck
Oobleck follows a very basic recipe that is repeatable for any oobleck activity. Here, I added orange food coloring to make it more fall themed.
The oobleck recipe: use a 2:1 ratio of cornstarch to water.
For this activity, I did 2 cups of cornstarch plus 1 cup of water (with 3 drops of food coloring to dye the water orange). Mix together in a bowl and pour into the storage container.
Remember: the food coloring is totally optional but also totally awesome.
Ways to play with pumpkin oobleck
After pouring the oobleck into my storage container, I added in some small sized pumpkins that normally live on my porch for the fall season. Today, they get to be decorated with oobleck.
Along with the pumpkins, I put a variety of kitchen tools for my 3 year old to explore the oobleck with:
I’ve added Amazon links to this section for clarification of which tools were used. However, (most of the) tools my son is actually using in the activity photos are from the Dollar Store, where I buy activity supplies.
What does a child do with pumpkins and oobleck?
This activity is rich with science, sensory, and exploration – all for the cost of some cornstarch and pumpkins (both of which you probably already have on hand).
My son explored the tools, noting which worked best, how the oobleck reacted with each, and different ways to cover the pumpkins.
By doing that, he was exploring properties of a liquid and forming observation techniques – a deeply scientific moment.
He was also immersed in a sensory experience with the messy oobleck, and adding in some imaginary play narratives to his work.
Instructions for the pumpkin oobleck mess and clean up
Yes, pumpkin oobleck is going to be a messy activity. Repeat after me: this is not a mess for the sake of a mess. This is a deep learning activity and play moment for a child. This mess has purpose.
Plus, it’s a good mess. It’s the kind of mess that sweeps up and rinses out of clothing really easily. This doesn’t ruin things and it cleaned up quickly.
RELATED: Sensory play is so important for kids. Find out more in my article.
How to clean up the pumpkins
When my kids were done playing with this, I let the oobleck that was on the floor dry a little and then swept it up.
The pumpkins were ready for a rinse off. You can do this a few ways:
- Put the pumpkins in the sink for a “pumpkin bath”
- Take them outside and hose them off (creating a pumpkin washing station)
- Add them to the bathtub for your child to clean off (this is what we did)
What ends up happening is a two-for-one activity: first kids play with oobleck and pumpkins, then they clean the pumpkins (and maybe themselves too).
How to clean up the oobleck
Oobleck is no different than gravy. You need to dilute it to clean it (and get it down your drains without clogging them).
Carry the bin to your sink, hose, or bathtub. “Flood” the oobleck with water and it will no longer be the non-Newtonian fluid it was – the cornstarch has completely mixed with the water
It’ll be murky, fully a liquid, and ready to be disposed of.
Heavily diluted oobleck, just like gravy, can go down the drain without clogging it (again, just add lots and lots of water.
Still not comfortable with oobleck down the drain? No worries! Scrape the bulk of it into the garbage.
Frequently Asked Questions
No. Unlike slime, oobleck does not stain. It’s cornstarch and water, and very “rinse-able.” It’s an easy clean up, just like if you used cornstarch in your kitchen for a recipe.
Food coloring is water soluble. In this activity, the 3 drops of food coloring in 1 cup of water is very diluted. Even if concentrated orange food coloring gets on fabric, leave the fabric in cold water all day to let the color seep out. Remember I am just some lady on the Internet so use your best judgment.
Oobleck is made with cornstarch and water so it is taste safe. HOWEVER, it is NOT recommended that cornstarch be eaten raw because of possible bacteria (similar to flour). You’ll need to be the best judge on if you’re comfortable with cornstarch and your child.
Pumpkin oobleck is a must try
It might not make sense right away, but it really does work.
My kids when to town on this activity and decorated the pumpkins for a full hour.
By the end of this activity, my 3-year-old who struggles with independent play – had played independently for 60 minutes and took a 20 minute bath. That’s so amazing, I can barely write about it without smiling.
Susie Allison, M. Ed
Susie Allison is the creator of Busy Toddler and has more than 2 million followers on Instagram. A former teacher and early childhood education advocate, Susie’s parenting book “Busy Toddler’s Guide to Actual Parenting” is available on Amazon.
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